In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:1
A few years ago I had one of our kids in for a checkup. Then came the part where the doctor asks me, the parent, to leave the exam room briefly. In just a minute I'm invited back in. Later I asked my son what the doctor did when I was out of the room. Well, among other things, the doctor had asked if my son felt safe, if he could sleep well. Normal questions. I'm glad that doctors are concerned for the safety of children.
So I'll ask you … do you feel safe? Can you sleep well? Perhaps not since February of last year because of Coronavirus concerns. Or not since the outbreak of wildfires perhaps near you, or the worsening air quality that has spread. Or maybe not for a long time due to the simmering political divide in our country and our state. Or maybe it's a more personal reason that leaves you feeling less than safe: a health issue or a behavior or mental health concern. Maybe we just rarely feel … safe.
The world clearly values safety. And we should too, to the extent that we as Christians were redeemed, were bought at a price, and therefore honor God with our bodies. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, right? So we avoid reckless danger and unnecessary risks. We value safety, whether physical or emotional safety. But how much concern for safety is too much? Can we be too concerned for safety? Yes. When it becomes a god. When it becomes “Safetyism” (See Haidt and Lukianoff’s 2018 book The Coddling of the American Mind on this topic.) Then we're staring the first commandment in the face. Have no other gods before Me. What does this mean? We should fear, love and trust in God above all else.
We know that in this world we will have trouble, as Jesus said in John 16:33. We don't need reminders of that fact in these troubled days. What we need reminding of is the balance of that verse: In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world. That's how we have peace, says Jesus, even in the midst of troubles--by resting in His arms.
And it seems that's how King David understood it centuries earlier in Psalm 4. After listing some of his troubles—his lying pursuers, those who mocked him and the Lord God—David concluded with a typical statement of trust: In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. In safety, really? Even when I don't feel all that safe? Even in the midst of troubles? Yes. The Lord alone defines and delivers safety.
In peace you can lie down and sleep. Why? Because the Lord is with you. He who has overcome the world through His death on the cross, is with you without fail. Though we experience Covid, or wildfires, or other great physical or emotional turmoil … and we will experience them … still the Lord neither slumbers nor sleeps. He will keep watch over you and grant you to dwell in safety, through faith in Him: safe now from the assaults of the evil one, and safe forever in His eternal dwelling place.